Friday, 25 May 2018

Mossdale Sessions 42 - 45

Mossdale Session 42  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward, Ian Cummins)

'There've been times in the past when you'd think Mossdale was an issue of national security' 

I should have been avoiding the choke today and visiting the far reaches with Adele. I'd promised her on Monday I'd have a break from the project and we'd finally get round to her long awaited inaugural Marathon traverse. When Ian agreed to join us at the last minute the temptation to work and leave them to it was too much to resist. I'd been suffering a very sore wrist over the previous few trips so Marathon would have been hell. Had Ian not come along I would have kept my word and done it regardless though.

Met at Yarnbury 9am, to heavy winds and a miserable sky, a far cry from recent affairs.
Another tough hike over via the original boundary wall/Howgill route. This route is usually the most sheltered option when it's wild, not the case today, we were battered the whole way.

Underground for around 11am.

With the drill and surveying gear I shot ahead, not wanting to hold them both up, but also letting them adapt as a pair to what was ahead. We reconvened at the Serpent before going our separate ways. A marker was left at the junction (pair of orange ear plugs) to signal the other had exited. I'd decided not to leave the system without them and asked they extend me the same courtesy. My parting words were, 'I'll be back here in four hours time and good luck!'

I was at the working end of things by noon.

Spent the first few hours capping 4 large boulders that resided in the cavity floor and barred any further progress downwards. With limited room capping was slow, awkward, bloody laborious! I managed to acquire a set routine which eventually brought swift progress. The routine mainly consisted of retrieving the necessary equipment for each step of the process then putting it away again. There was room for very little down there.

The questionable block that's been bothering me since I first climbed down here, got to me enough, to install a little more scaffold. All I had room for was a half truss formed partly from what I'd already installed and a 1.5m pole.

I'd been hearing things drop below for a while now and wondered when that magical hole would appear. One final cap shattered the key boulder and after removing what I could the rest fell down below revealing a further cavity, descending a little further and heading east. More of the same next session should hopefully make this and the north east horizon accessible.

Capping didn't seem quite as awkward after todays session. Being organised and having a good system makes a massive difference.

Packed up the working stuff and did some surveying, but then reverted back to work after another painful frustrating time.Was trying to kill some more of the clock before heading back. Dug out the remainder of the cobbles and soil from the base of the cavity, using the protein drum, which exposed a large jammed flake. Worked until 3:30pm then slowly made my way back to the Serpent. I'd suspected that if Ian and Adele had gone beyond the Far Stream Syphon and visited the Mud Caverns they would be far longer than my prearranged 4 hours. Although they didn't pass the Syphon or visit the Mud Caverns proper they were still quicker than I'd expected.

During the return and just beyond relief corner I began to smell cigarette smoke. For a 2nd I did wonder whether it'd had travelled with the draught from the far reaches, especially after calling out Adele's name a few times, and hearing nothing in return. The smoke got more concentrated which could only mean one thing, a few more shouts and Adele returned the call. They'd been waiting for me since half 3 and looked a little worse for wear. Ian was wrapped in a survival blanket and Adele appeared to be smoking her discomfort aside, something I relied upon for years to get by.

Another slow exit but this time knowing we wouldn't be met by glorious conditions, which just made it worse, but better in many other ways. The weakness this place can at times evoke, does give one a true sense of existence. 

Adele's rucksack appeared to have been riffled through when I reached the bags just down from the surface. This is the 2nd time this has happened now, and the last time they will be left anywhere near prying moronic hands.

Trip duration: 5 Hours

Mossdale Session 43  


(Simon Beck)

'I'll be a cripple by the end of this!'

Out of bed at 6:45am and away for 8am.

Manufactured new drill pouch over the previous few days, a vast improvement on the former. Had surveying gear with me again, this time I was determined to get something done.

Not sure why I've reverted back to the original approach, I guess 'variety is..' and all.

Slow getting ready. Underground for 10:45am.

Swims very clear! Trout were lively sods, I think they're getting used to their almost daily light fix. I didn't appear to notice the water temperature so it must be getting warmer. It didn't feel worth setting a marker at the Beach Head but I went through the motions anyway.

Spent the first hour surveying which was a success of sorts. Being fresh as opposed to post grotty work mood probably made a big difference.

Finished off the capping from the previous session then began to enlarge the hole I'd uncovered last session. The draught was definitely evident today but doesn't seem quite as concentrated since opening things up further.

Neither of the ways on appear to be offering a quick breakthrough. The route down is still the primary but will require what scaffold I have left in stock here.

Worked until 3pm then packed up. Took some more pictures and attempted to improve on previous moving pictures. The use of a phone to do this seems wholly unsophisticated considering the subject!

One conclusion I'm beginning to entertain, if I break through this choke there's a very good chance I'll be through the sandstone. Based on the exposure just up passage I'm definitely below that horizon presently.

Trip duration: 5 hours


Mossdale Session 44  


(Simon Beck)

'There is something in the air down here. A collective presence of all those who've passed by'

An impulsive visit late in the day, even though I still felt rough from Saturday. Been trying to have at least two full rest days between sessions, in theory that is.

Quick walk over, less than 45minutes. I was attempting to race the thundery looking conditions. The sky did not look friendly. I was only planning a quick trip to prepare the alternate route and a little more surveying.

Adele did the call out for me.

Underground for around 4pm.

With only a tupperware snoopy looped to a dive belt I was down at the choke in little time.

Ever since I began excavating the Leftfield I did wonder whether I was doing the right thing by not sticking with the original plan to go directly ahead and through the choked rift. Over the previous days I decided that before I pour anymore resources into the Leftfield Deep Route (cavity) I will give the choked rift some attention. Having two routes to swap between adds a little variety to the whole as well. Plus if I hit a brick wall with one I've got the other. I've also been increasingly working alone, without backup the cavity is becoming a riskier proposition, unless I pour more scaffold into it. I will see where the choked rift takes me before I invest further in the other.

To access the choked rift one must pass a cross rift (which leads to a boulder chamber above) overhung with jammed boulders. The session was spent clearing out the boulders I'd dumped in there from the cavity. Some I couldn't even manage which made me wonder how I'd got them there in the first place. Sheer bloody determination from the looks of it! No wonder I feel fucked!
Quickly made an impression and prepared things for a proper start next session. The route ahead appears similar to what I've already encountered, most of it buried under cobbles and fill.
Did some packing under the jammed stuff in the rift, but intend to build a frugal scaffold retaining wall next session. May as well start bringing more scaffold again, going to need it. Feels like I'm back to square one but know that's far from the truth, I reminded myself I'm doing this pretty much alone.

Got to a point where I could do little more, so added a little more to the survey and made my way out at 6pm. Felt like it'd rained when I reached the surface but quickly dismissed this. The weather was definitely on the turn elsewhere, I could feel it.

Adele had been worried, she'd been weather watching with thunder alerts popping up everywhere.

Witnessed one big momma of a cloud during the walk back, discharging it's load over the Pendle region.

Knackered and looking like shit I was then summonsed to the pub by Duncan Smith, for a steak and a few pints!

Trip duration: 2.5 hours

The height of sophistication, heavily patched arse and shoulders, old wetsuit leg elbow pads and a tupperware snoopy looped to a dive belt!


Mossdale Session 45  


(Simon Beck)


Things today played out similar to Monday but I was better prepared with charged batteries unlike previously.

Underground for 2pm, with only the drill to carry.

Took care of the larger boulders I'd wimped out of last time. Had forgotten how lethal capping boulders can be. Several projectiles almost made it in to camp. Began to chip away at a large block which resides within and bars entry to the rift.
Added a bit of temporary scaffold to support the jammed stuff above. A prop and adjustable leg were incorporated to offer trifling support to a few of the major players.
More capping ensued until the contact point between the capped block and another big block was severed. The latter dropped considerably, which I'd expected but still felt caught off guard by. The dry stone wall support I'd built previously was now made redundant with it's footing having dropped a bit.
I did wonder where I'd be had I stuck with this route from the get go. I feel energised slightly with the change in target. Pushing both seems appropriate. I can also rob peter to pay paul where the scaffold is concerned.

Got some pictures and then away for 5pm. Piss easy work for a change!

A lonesome trout in a pool at the juncture of Right and Easy I'd named Gerald (Gerald's Pond) appears missing possibly KIA. Kept meaning to bring the poor bastard a morsal or two to eat. The other trout in the main current probably do okay, but this one's been exiled there since the previous high water event.

The rest of the trout were very lively and forthcoming with their interactions during the watery end of the exit, which I couldn't get over it's clarity. At one point I appeared to be escorted by three Trout, cruising ahead in formation. Usually the water is so murky you only feel them banging into your legs. Still I've never witnessed this behaviour from them before.

Trip duration: 4 hours

Next installment: Mossdale Sessions 46 - 49

© Simon Beck, 2018. The copyright for this article and photographs, remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.


  1. I just recently found your blog and have caught up to the present. Love your writing and getting to experience the caverns with you. Can't wait for more!

    1. Thanks, I'm glad it's of interest to you.
      Just returned from Session 60, with an ever increasing back log of writing up to do. The weather is presently too good to ignore but I am beginning to start writing things up.

  2. I've also just found your blog and am pleased to hear there is more to come! Apologies if I've missed this, but what is your goal? Simply to dig out and explore the system in general, or do you have a certain known cavern (for example) in mind which you think you can reach?

    1. The present limits of Mossdale Caverns is a very small piece of a much larger cave system - that in theory should exist, but is yet to be entered or fully understood - that connects a multitude of Caves and Sinks on the flanks of Great Whernside/Grassington Moor to the resurgence of Black Keld, and other outlets in the Wharfedale valley.